Digital radiography (digital X-ray) is the latest technology used to take dental X-rays. This technique uses an electronic sensor (instead of X-ray film) that captures and stores the digital image on a computer. This image can be instantly viewed and enlarged, helping the dentist and dental hygienist detect problems more easily. Digital X-rays reduce radiation 80-90% compared to the already low exposure of traditional dental X-rays.
Dental X-rays are essential, preventative, diagnostic tools that provide valuable information not visible during a regular dental exam. Dentists and dental hygienists use this information to safely and accurately detect hidden dental abnormalities and complete an accurate treatment plan. Without X-rays, problem areas can go undetected.
Dental X-rays may reveal:
Abscesses or cysts.
Cancerous and non-cancerous tumors.
Decay between the teeth.
Poor tooth and root positions.
Problems inside a tooth or below the gum line.
Detecting and treating dental problems at an early stage can save you time, money, unnecessary discomfort, and your teeth!
Are dental X-rays safe?
We are all exposed to natural radiation in our environment. Digital X-rays produce a significantly lower level of radiation compared to traditional dental x-rays. Not only are digital X-rays better for the health and safety of the patient, they are faster and more comfortable to take, which reduces your time in the dental office. Also, since the digital image is captured electronically, there is no need to develop the X-rays, thus eliminating the disposal of harmful waste and chemicals into the environment.
Even though digital X-rays produce a low level of radiation and are considered very safe, dentists still take necessary precautions to limit the patient’s exposure to radiation. These precautions include only taking those X-rays that are necessary, and using lead apron shields to protect the body, when necessary.
How often should dental X-rays be taken?
The need for dental X-rays depends on each patient’s individual dental health needs. Dr. Dahm and the hygienist will recommend necessary X-rays based upon the review of your medical and dental history, a dental exam, signs and symptoms, your age, and risk of disease.
- A full mouth series X-rays are recommended for all new patients. A full series is usually good for three to five years.
- Bite-wing X-rays (X-rays of top and bottom teeth biting together) are taken at your dental health visits and are recommended every 12 - 24 months to detect new dental problems.
- Panoramic X-rays (also known as Panorex® or orthopantomograms) are wraparound photographs of the face and teeth. They are extraoral and simple to perform. Unlike bitewing X-rays that need to be taken every year, panoramic X-rays are generally only taken on an as-needed basis. A panoramic X-ray is not conducted to give a detailed view of each tooth, but rather to provide a better view of the sinus areas, nasal areas and mandibular nerve. Panoramic X-rays are preferable to bitewing X-rays when a patient is in extreme pain, and when a sinus problem is suspected to have caused dental problems.
- TMJ X-rays are used to view the jaw joints.
- Cephalometric Film is an X-ray used for measuring the head for treatment planning and orthodontic evaluation.
- Sinus View X-rays are used for orthodontics and show a better view of the nasal cavity and sinuses.